Tag Archives: arts

Interview: Jonathan Lethem and THE BEST AMERICAN COMICS 2015

Jonathan Lethem self-portrait in introduction to The Best American Comics 2015

Jonathan Lethem self-portrait in Introduction to The Best American Comics 2015

Jonathan Lethem is the author of nine novels, including “Gun, with Occasional Music,” “Motherless Brooklyn,” “The Fortress of Solitude,” and most recently, “Dissident Gardens.” He is this year’s editor for the annual, “Best American Comics.” Lethem’s 2003 novel, “The Fortress of Solitude,” famously references superhero comics. In 2007-2008, Marvel Comics published a ten-issue comic book collaboration between Lethem and artist Farel Dalrymple. It was a revisiting of one of the most unlikely of superheroes from the 1970s, “Omega the Unknown.” In 2013, Lethem collaborated with artist Raymond Pettibon as part of a collection of the artist’s work.

In my review of Best American Comics 2015, I speak to this year’s focus on comics as art. Series editor Bill Kartalopoulos brought in the idea of including Raymond Pettibon and it’s an exciting move toward further establishing comics as an art form in its own right. It would seem to many of us that such an assertion is no longer necessary. But every bit helps to make known to all readers the endless possibilities for comics. In my interview, we talk about Pettibon and his place in both the art world and the comics world. And we take a closer look at what comics are all about in the first place.

Cover art for Best American Comics 2015 by Raymond Pettibon

Cover art for Best American Comics 2015 by Raymond Pettibon

HENRY CHAMBERLAIN: I was reading over an interview you gave in 2008 and I wanted to quote a little from it. You said: “What I do in book after book after book is smash together — as urgently and as adamantly as I can — things that feel verifiably real everyday: textures, stuff of the prosaic and dreamlike material.” Is that the spirit in which you took on your editorship of this year’s Best American Comics?

JONATHAN LETHEM: That’s a great question. I like that quote. I don’t always love hearing myself read back to me but that one stands up. It sounds like what I feel that I do. Of course, I didn’t think of the editorship as having to reflect my aesthetic as though this were like a novel I was writing. You know, it extends from my position as a member of the audience, as a fan, as a responder, of other people’s work.

I’ve always seen a lot of continuity between the reader and the writer. There’s something in between like a member of the bookstore staff putting together a display, or a deejay setting up a set, or that overused term, “curator.” Helplessly, I’m grabbing at things that interest me and pushing them up against each other to make interesting vibrations between them. So, I guess it is like that quote. It is similar. The book ended up including things that are surreal, or magical, or fantastical, along with stuff of grubby ordinary life.

HC: This is your own personal journey through comics. I’m thinking of what Bill Kartalopoulos, the series editor, had said about this year’s edition being less of a survey than last year’s. I suppose each editor is going to bring different things to the next volume. This is your own take on the current scene in comics.

JL: Bill was tremendous about handing me a lot of rope. Obviously, he’s immersed in a field in a way, on a year to year basis, that I could never dream of being. He was brilliant in getting me up to speed and informing me of context. He was a pair of super-binoculars. He also wanted the book to be mine and not lead the horse to water too often. He said he wasn’t passing along anything he wasn’t interested in but that it was going to be too much and that I would need to carve out a vision from all this stuff. He was a great sounding board. He helped guide me to my decisions. For a while, I was floundering around. It’s overwhelming. The field is so huge and so hyper-kinetic in the kinds of energy and ambition being expressed.

HC: So, going through that mountain of books, impressed upon you the enormity of possibilities for comics.

JL: Yeah, I really did feel that. I guess that my selections reflect a kind of a sense of wanting to force the reader to experience, in some ways, the same exciting calamity of possibilities that I experienced. I wanted to reproduce the sensation of “What the hell is this?” Comics are so many different things right now: so vibrant, so many chances are being taken, so many fantastic experiments are being conducted. I started to think that this wasn’t just one thing. It’s a gigantic art form with brilliant juxtapositions and perplexities encompassed within.

Excerpt from "No Tears, No Sorrow," by Eleanor Davis

Excerpt from “No Tears, No Sorrow,” by Eleanor Davis

HC: Looking at this year’s Best American Comics selections that you made, it runs the gamut from a more straightforward approach, like Eleanor Davis, to a more unconventional approach, like Henrietta Valium. And it’s all comics. I think you did something very significant this year by, in a natural way, bringing forward the understanding that comics is an art form. Now, one of my pet peeves, and you may agree, is when a gallery or museum labels something as only “comics-related” when, in fact, it is a work of comics, pure and simple.

JL: Yeah.

HC: And here you have Raymond Pettibon’s work on the cover of this year’s Best American Comics.

JL: Somehow, I got in there very early and that was a piece of good luck. A little feeler that series editor Bill Kartalopoulos put forward was that he had spotted this recent work of Pettibon’s and he sort of dared me to agree with him that it really was comics, just like you say. I was the right recipient for that little piece of provocation. I was already a big Pettibon fan. I wrote something for him, so we had collaborated on that a few years ago. The results were published in The Believer. And that was a comic. I thought of it explicitly as four panels. I wrote for him a four-panel really bizarre and over-loaded comic to do. Raymond being Raymond, took that into even stranger directions. When Bill asked what I would think of Pettibon’s work in a comics context, I was absolutely on board. As an opening exchange, I think it set the ground for how the rest of the book was going to feel to us, that we’d agreed to this slightly audacious definition of comics. And then it comes first circle with the invitation to Raymond to be the cover artist and his agreeing to do it.

Excerpt from Raymond Pettibon's "The Credits Rolled," 2013.

Excerpt from Raymond Pettibon’s “The Credits Rolled,” 2013.

HC: When I was reading this year’s Best American Comics in a cafe the other day, a barista made that “What the hell is this?” comment. And it was in a very supportive tone as he was very familiar with Pettibon’s work. This would be interesting: What can you tell us about Raymond Pettibon? How does he see himself within a comics context?

JL: I have met him a handful of times. And I would say that he is dodgy in the extreme, with a great disinterest in facing questions like that directly. But his work is eloquent. His work incorporates giant chunks of response to comics as one of the key American vernacular visual languages. Along with film, the covers of pulp paperbacks, and tabloid photography, his work devours comics as a source. You have images of Superman, you have hints of Krazy Kat. There’s that Vavoom character from Little Lulu. I think, to him, it’s a question that is too obvious for him to engage in. And here is where I’d feel a lot of native sympathy myself in terms of my own writing and how it engages with comics as a zone of vitality and American language all its own. Comics just begs to be responded to by other art forms. So, what the Pop artists did, by grabbing onto that comics energy, is akin to other artists, like Philip Guston, or Raymond Pettibon. What I’ve humbly tried to do a couple of times in my writing is that, somehow make literary prose just to the tune to the energy that you find in a comic book or a comic strip panel. I think it’s a natural response. You see that today among artists, an understanding that comics are crucial, alive, and part of the American cultural stratum.

HC: You see all sorts of creative people fascinated by comics narrative. You teach creative writing. Do you suggest comics to your students?

JL: I have done that and I also have dealt with some independent study students or thesis writers working on the subject of graphic novels. I haven’t yet assigned a comic as a text in a seminar class but you’re making me think that I ought to do that. It doesn’t seem out of reach to me. My seminars have included film assignments in the past so it would be completely of a piece with that.

HC: I want to reassure everyone that this is not simply a survey, although it is in some sense. It’s definitely a wonderful guide to what’s been going on in comics in the last year or so.

JL: I hope so.

HC: I love how you keep an irreverent tone. It’s respectful but fun. I mean, your introduction is a comic and it’s hilarious. I love the character you created, even though you say it’s derivative.

JL: Well, most good characters are derivative. The two things aren’t mutually exclusive.

HC: One thing I recall from creative writing class is to avoid being portentous. And I believe that most good comics have a lightness to them. They can be anything but they need to strike a good balance, and avoid being portentous.

JL: I’m with you on that. Ironically, the portentousness that I mostly shied away from was largely found in the mainstream superhero comics–which I couldn’t quite relate to. For the present crop, I wasn’t clicking with it. Often, this is because there is a slightly artificial heaviness to them. It’s sort of a role reversal from grown-up stuff being found among the underground and graphic novels and the funny books being there for kids. But, actually, the mainstream comic book companies are producing a lot of very jacked-up grim stuff. And, as you say, some of the most sophisticated or beguiling suggestive work that you can come across includes a certain levity or a sense of the absurd. Some frivolity is in the mix.

HC: Let’s consider some of the work included here. One that quickly comes to mind is Megan Kelso.

JL: Yeah, Megan Kelso was a great discovery. She’s so sly. It appears to be very straightforward work but the degree of compression, the way she can do so much with such a small number of pages, is very, very literary in fact.

From Julia Gfrörer's "Palm Ash"

From Julia Gfrörer’s “Palm Ash”

HC: Another intriguing selection is Julia Gfrörer.

JL: That’s another intricate and evocative piece. That was a total discovery for me. I hadn’t come across her work anywhere before.

HC: I’m familiar with her work. She’s definitely on the rise.

JL: Well, she should be.

HC: It’s nice that it was printed in the book on green paper.

JL: Yes, it was a pamphlet on green paper. One of the interesting things about work like this is that it has the quality of being an artifact. Some other works in the book were either bigger or smaller than the anthology pages. Or would be silkscreened or some other printing process. It’s only an approximation to the original when we fit it into the anthology format.

HC: What would you say about your readership?

JL: More than usual, I’m on the edge of my seat to meet my readership. I know the sense of being stakeholders the comics audience has. I wonder about how they will respond and probably argue with this book in certain ways. I’m really interested in what will come out of that and what I’ll learn. I think it was crucial to feel that I was being dropped into a universe and trying to do justice to this last year. It was like a flashbulb strobe image of the landscape. My volume was one in a conversation. It was instructive to study the last few years of the volumes and see the different kind of statements that people are making with the editor’s position and the different senses you get of what the competition in the field feels like at any given moment.

HC: I wonder if cartoonists see it as a contest. I tend to think that they’ll appreciate that this volume is, like you say, part of a conversation.

JL: Well, you know, everyone who makes things is waiting for that gold star. It’s a neat job to be able to give out the gold stars once in a while. You also want to let people know that there were hundreds of submissions that were clamoring and knocking on the door to be included. In some cases, the selections were determined upon what went together in making a book out of it all, making it all flow, and making it all interesting in context. There are some pieces that I fell in love with that didn’t make it into the book.

HC: It must be great when you make these connections while putting the book together, like the two pieces with a Wonder Woman theme, one by R. Sikoryak and the other by Diane Obomsawin.

JL: There was going to be a third Wonder Woman piece, by Ron Regé Jr., but lawyers stepped in and squelched it. I was trying to give as much of a glimpse into Wonder Woman as possible especially since there had been a couple of nonfiction books on Wonder Woman in that same year.

HC: And you ran into difficulty with getting a work in by Steve Ditko.

JL: That one went down to the wire. And it led us nowhere. So, somewhere, out there, there’s a compendium worthy of Steve Ditko.

HC: Well, God bless him. Thank you for your time, Jonathan.

JL: Thank you, Henry.

You can listen to the podcast interview by clicking below:

“The Best American Comics 2015” is a 400-page hardcover, published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, and is available as of October 6, 2015. You can find it at Amazon right here.

Leave a comment

Filed under Anthologies, Bill Kartalopoulos, Comics, Interviews, Jonathan Lethem, Raymond Pettibon, The Best American Comics

24-Hour Comics Day 2015: HOTEL HOTEL and The Fremont Troll!

My 24-Hour Comics Day Adventure at Hotel Hotel hostel has been accomplished!

One of the flyers promoting my 24-Hour Comics Day drawing marathon at HotelHotel PizzaBar

Here is my 24-hour comic for 24-Hour Comics Day 2015. I hope you enjoy it and get a kick out of what I call “24-Hour Comics Logic.” It kicks in just when you need it. I’ll have more to say in another post later this week about Hotel Hotel, the venue for this year’s 24HCD. For now, thanks so much to the support of Hotel Hotel hostel and our friends at Comics Dungeon.


























Filed under 24 Hour Comics, Comics, Fremont, Hostels, Hotel Hotel, Hotel Hotel Hostel, Hotels, Seattle, The Fremont Troll, Travel

Review: ‘The Best American Comics 2015,’ Editor, Jonathan Lethem; Series Editor, Bill Kartalopoulos

Henriette Valium's "Lâcher de Chiens" from Descant 164. Is it comics?? Yes, it is!!

Henriette Valium’s “Lâcher de Chiens” from Descant 164. Is it comics?? Yes, it is!!

For this year’s BEST AMERICAN COMICS, with guest editor Jonathan Lethem, the speakers were turned up to eleven, all the windows were smashed, and the ceiling collapsed as the comics medium made a pretty nice step forward. I am talking about this imaginary line that’s been dividing comics from fine art. In the past (or still present), if I saw some compelling comics on display in an art gallery or museum, I would need to second-guess on how to describe it. The gallery or museum, the authority figures, had decreed that the work on the walls was “comics-related,” not simply “comics.” That’s always bothered me when I read “comics-related” on a label attached to a work that could simply be identified as, embraced as, “comics.”

Consider, for example Lethem’s inclusion of Henriette Valium, generally described as “a comic book artist and painter.” Valium is something of a hybrid, not easily pegged. In the right context, you can call him a cartoonist. You could also just call him an artist. His work is out there, way out there. It simply does not neatly fit into the conventional comics world or the traditional art world. And yet it belongs in both. The sample that Lethem has chosen demonstrates a masterful uninhibited expression. It’s powerfully visual and, while not a traditional or coherent narrative, the words carry weight. So, then the question becomes is this a comic that is “art-related” or just comics. Let’s embrace it as comics!

Excerpt from Raymond Pettibon's "The Credits Rolled," 2013.

Excerpt from Raymond Pettibon’s “The Credits Rolled,” 2013.

And then there’s Raymond Pettibon. If there is anyone who stands out as having their work labeled as “comics-related” by the art world gatekeepers, it would be him. Pettibon began his art career as an in-your-face punk. Pettibon created some of the most awesome, creepy, and wonderfully enigmatic art that was chiefly used to promote bands. Over time, his art went from the streets to the gallery walls. It was cool matter-of-fact images of all sorts of sordid things. I never thought of it as exactly being comics and yet, as a cartoonist-painter, I totally related to it. If it was “comics,” then it was of a more experimental stripe–without even trying to be or fully aware that it was! It was just great. Today, I believe, it would be accepted as some form of comics. So, the timing is perfect to see this move forward.

Excerpt from "No Tears, No Sorrow," by Eleanor Davis

Excerpt from “No Tears, No Sorrow,” by Eleanor Davis

To be sure, the bulk of the work here adheres more closely to the principles of sequential art. For example, Eleanor Davis provides a more straightforward narrative. Her piece in this book, “No Tears, No Sorrow,” follows a group of participants in a workshop to learn how to cry. It is a beautifully paced comic with a nice spare look. While the characters and setting are very concise and minimal, it speaks volumes to our conflicted notions of expressing emotion.

Excerpt from "The Good Witch, 1947," by Megan Kelso

Excerpt from “The Good Witch, 1947,” by Megan Kelso

Another piece that knocks it right out of the park is “The Good Witch, 1947,” by Megan Kelso. Like characters from a novel by Carson McCullers, these are mysterious, sad characters that we deeply want to know but will only be allowed in after thoughtful consideration. Megan Kelso is not “old school” or “traditional.” She just knows how to weave a good story. And that’s what you’ll find here, a tidy number of immersive and compelling comics.

Cover art for Best American Comics 2015 by Raymond Pettibon

Cover art for Best American Comics 2015 by Raymond Pettibon

As series editor Bill Kartalopoulos explained in an interview with Publishers Weekly, this latest BAC is not meant to be a straightforward survey of the best comics of the last year. Although, if it’s not a survey in some sense, then what is it? Well, it’s the guest editor’s take on the currents of comics. Fair enough. And, as long as we’re getting a collection that is being faithful to some notion of a survey, I’m all for that. Basically, it comes down to the series editor providing the guest editor with a mountain of books and, from that mountain, a collection emerges. This is Lethem’s take on comics. We see that, yes, comics come in many varieties. And with such an esteemed and thoughtful guide as Lethem, you are in good hands to make some wonderful discoveries and connections.

“The Best American Comics 2015” is a 400-page hardcover, published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, and is available as of October 6, 2015. You can find it at Amazon right here.

1 Comment

Filed under Anthologies, Bill Kartalopoulos, Comics, Jonathan Lethem, Megan Kelso, Raymond Pettibon, The Best American Comics

24 HOUR COMICS DAY 2015: Cartoonist Henry Chamberlain at Hotel Hotel, in Seattle’s Fremont neighborhood

Excerpt from a new work by Henry Chamberlain

Excerpt from a new work by Henry Chamberlain

For those of you in Seattle, come see cartoonist Henry Chamberlain at the HotelHotel PizzaBar on Saturday, October 3rd, drawing all night long for 24-Hour Comics Day. Ask and he’ll draw you into the comic.

Henry Chamberlain-Hotel-Hotel-24-Hour-Comics

Hotel Hotel is one of the best boutique hostels in the world, located in the heart of the quirky Seattle neighborhood, Fremont, also known as “the center of the universe.” This will be another great 24-Hour comics. We thank the sponsorship of Comics Dungeon. If you’re looking for the best comics selection and knowledge advice, visit our friends at Comics Dungeon right here.

What can be better than an exciting locale, a comfortable and hip environment, and good company all around. If you’re a local, you’re always welcome at the HotelHotel PizzaBar. And, if you’re planning a visit to Seattle, check out our friends at Hotel Hotel, located at 3515 Fremont Avenue North, right here.


Filed under 24 Hour Comics, 24 Hour Comics Day, 24HCD, Comics, Comics Dungeon, Fremont, Henry Chamberlain, Hostels, Hotel Hotel, Hotels, Seattle

Seattle Focus: Joshua Boulet illustration for Seattle Weekly Homeless Cover Story

Joshua Boulet illustration for Seattle Weekly

Joshua Boulet illustration for Seattle Weekly

There are those times when everything seems to fall into place. I sat down to a cup of coffee at Zeitgeist Coffee in Pioneer Square when a friend handed me a copy of Seattle Weekly with a cover illustration by Joshua Boulet. “You’re the dude that reviews comics on Comics Grinder. You gotta give Joshua Boulet a shout-out!” Yes, indeed. Happy to do it. In fact, the cover story is a very compelling piece that offers our city a viable plan to address our evergrowing homeless population. I enjoyed my cup of coffee, a first-rate cover story, and a pitch perfect illustration from our local hero, Joshua Boulet.


Filed under Illustration, Joshua Boulet, Seattle, Seattle Weekly

Kickstarter: BAREFOOT GEN for Schools and Libraries Campaign Ends 9/10/2015


Our friends at Last Gasp need that last big push to get them over the top for such a worthy goal: a new hardcover edition of a landmark in manga, “Barefoot Gen,” for schools and libraries. This is the story of the bombing of Hiroshima told from the perspective of a young boy. It has moved Art Spiegelman, creator of the masterpiece in comix, “Maus,” to call “Barefoot Gen” a prime example of how the comics medium can bring ideas to life.


All you Kickstarter supporters know that thrill of making it to the finish line. Let’s all do what we can, spread the word, donate to the campaign, and visit often (the campaign ends this Thursday, Sept 10th!) right here.


Last Gasp estimates that $36,000 is the minimum needed to create and distribute 4000 copies (1000 each of four volumes). The cost would cover the following:

Redesigning the books for hardcover
Printing hardcover books
Mailing rewards to backers
Kickstarter and credit card processing fees


Barefoot Gen (Hadashi no Gen in the original Japanese) is a semi-autobiographical story about wartime Japan and the bombing of Hiroshima. For many years, Last Gasp has published the English edition of this classic manga story.

Visit the BAREFOOT GEN for Schools and Libraries Campaign right here.

Leave a comment

Filed under Barefoot Gen, Comics, Japan, Keiji Nakazawa, Manga

Open Letter to Bumbershoot: You are Too Expensive! And I Won’t Go Anymore.

Has Bumbershoot Become Seattle's Burning Man? Photo: Trey Ratcliff / Flickr

Has Bumbershoot Become Seattle’s Burning Man? Photo: Trey Ratcliff / Flickr

EDITOR’S NOTE: There’s a great piece in The Seattle Times by Danny Westneat that sheds light on the upsurge in Bumbershoot ticket prices. I wasn’t aware of this development but Bumbershoot, according to Westneat, is now run by Anschutz Entertainment Group. That doesn’t change what I have to say below. But it adds more information to work with. Read it here.

For those of you in Seattle, Bumbershoot is this Labor Day weekend, September 5, 6, and 7, 2015. I suggest that you NOT go. That is, unless you really want to burn through what have recently shot up to $100/day tickets. I was reading an insightful look at how Burning Man went from a groovy and authentic happening to a corporate playland just the other day. And it got me to thinking about Bumbershoot. If nothing else, maybe this could open up some discussion.

“Today is the last day to buy the $29 any day tickets, with which you can buy now and choose later.” — The Bumbershoot website, May 31, 2011

For those in Seattle, this letter to Bumbershoot may seem harsh or even unpatriotic somehow. But hear me out. For those outside of Seattle, here’s a taste of what happens when something good turns sour. Just how do you go from a $5/day, to a $30/day, to a staggering $100/day event–and pretend nothing’s wrong? And now you’ve got additional VIP-enhanced ticket prices too for an event that originally was simply a place to hear a lot of great music. At some point, Bumbershoot had no business expanding in size. It’s still held within the 74-acre Seattle Center. Total attendance last year was estimated to be 125,000 visitors. The venue has NOT gotten any bigger. Bumbershoot is a study in an overwhelmingly clogged gridlock of humanity. At some point, bigger is by no means better. That should be a lesson to the City of Seattle in general. And it should be something that compels Bumbershoot to stop and rethink.

What is, or was, Bumbershoot? This article from The Seattle Times from Sunday, August 27, 2000, proves useful. Read it here.

Dear Bumbershoot,

I wish we could somehow turn back the clock and return to a more carefree time. I’m wondering if that’s possible. I believe that it is. How do other similar events manage to entertain the city for a weekend and even do it for free? Now, I fully understand that there is only one Bumbershoot but I think you could learn a lot from the free and fun Northwest Folklife Festival. Sure, they incur plenty of expenses themselves and they make an organized effort to collect donations. Couldn’t Bumberhoot make a serious effort to drop ticket prices and seek out donations?

You don’t have to be an old fogie to recall when it was relatively cheap to buy tickets to go to Bumbershoot, Seattle’s landmark music and arts festival. Just observe the notice above. $30/day tickets were still a reality only four short years ago! Maybe you have to be a bit older to recall when it was totally affordable to the point that you bought a pass for the whole shebang without blinking an eye. And for you new locals, check this out, the event used to be free!

The Wikipedia post on Bumbershoot is rather thin. But it begins with one intriguing fact: the event was first run by the City of Seattle. It began in 1971 as a way to lift everyone’s spirits amid a major economic slump. Talk about doing the right thing! Bumbershoot ultimately fell under the control of the nonprofit, One Reel, which is known for a very expensive cabaret show, Teatro Zinzanni. I’m sorry but I’ve tried it, byway of a gift, and found their glitzy dinner theater extravaganza to be an overpriced spectacle. And I see that is what has become of Bumbershoot. As a nonprofit, you would think that One Reel would have it worked out where its ongoing Teatro Zinzanni, geared to upscale customers, would help finance the so-called people’s festival, Bumbershoot.

Anyway, all I wish to do here is say that I’ve got some good memories from Bumbershoot. However, I’ve also seen Bumbershoot become less accessible and more limited in its overall offerings. Keep in mind, I do appreciate that these packaged experiences don’t come cheap. I used to go to Lollapalooza when it was affordable too. Well, no one is going to boycott one of these events if they’ve convinced themselves it’s the most amazing thing ever. Bumbershoot used to be pretty amazing but I’ve seen the life sucked out of it. And part of the problem, the ongoing problem that will only get worse, is too many people! So, to some extent, if I were to persuade anyone to stay home, I’m doing Bumbershoot a huge favor.

I’m sorry, Bumbershoot. I’m just not feeling the love, despite your branding yourself as a people’s festival. But I still hold out some hope. Maybe you’ve just let yourself fly too close to the sun. It’s time to come down back to your roots. What do you say, Bumbershoot? Do you really want to be seen as Seattle’s Burning Man, a rich person’s version of cutting loose and having fun? I hope this may strike a chord with some old Bumbershoot fans from over the years. Again, I’m sorry but I had to say something. Did you think that no one would notice the skyrocketing prices? Or, if they did take note, did you think people would simply shrug it off? Well, maybe you did. But I speak for those who can’t just shrug it off. If you are truly a people’s festival, you will find a way to scale back and bring this event back to the people. Bumbershoot, you are no longer being true to yourself.

Think about it. Help me understand. But, at the end of the day, there’s got to be a way to lower those ticket prices. Don’t worry, we won’t miss any of the razzle dazzle that you may feel you need to cut from the schedule. One Reel, you can save that for Teatro Zinzanni. Hey, the show wasn’t all that bad. Just consider this: You won’t lose your core audience if you scale back and scaling back can be a good thing. Also look at it this way, it is a very practical idea. I miss you guys already.

Sincerely, your friend,


Filed under Bumbershoot, Entertainment, Music, One Reel, pop culture, Seattle

Review: STEVE JOBS: Insanely Great


Steve Jobs is a person who had a lot of great days, so many of which directly impacted the great days of countless others. By that measure alone, Jobs led a remarkable life, a life quite worthy of remarking upon at length. To do this through the comics medium is a worthy endeavor. To do it right, the way Jessie Hartland did, is an inspiration. Her graphic novel, or “graphic biography,” tells the story of a man who, by luck and pluck, ends up going down in history as one of the great technological trailblazers. He was a really nice guy and a bit of a stink but, all told, a person to look up to and to learn from. “Steve Jobs: Insanely Great,” give us an accessible, engaging, and thoroughly entertaining biography.


Jessie Hartland’s style is quite light and breezy, disarmingly so. She packs quite a lot of information in this book, all neatly assembled in a seemingly effortless way. The life of Steve Jobs seems like that of a never-ending race. Just before the starting gun, Jobs is all flexed and ready and then he’s off and never ever really stops until the very, very end. What a life!


There’s all these things he’s supposed to have said like, “If today were the last day of my life, would I want to do what I am about to do today?” It sends a chill down my spine. I need to get up for a moment and pace around. This day. This time. This life. Study this above page for a moment. It would make a great poster, wouldn’t it? Very simple yet powerful. That is what Hartland has tapped into, Job’s pursuit of something powerful through simplicity. It wouldn’t be the money that would make him happy, although he was happy to use the money to pursue his dreams. Throughout the book, you can’t help but get swept up by the sense of urgency as one bright kid becomes one even brighter man.


Who is this book meant for? Everyone, quite literally. You could say grades 8 and up. It’s definitely something younger readers will appreciate and it seems that Hartland has an ideal reader of say, thirteen, in mind as she is careful to include various details that older readers might take for granted. I especially like her two-page spreads explaining such things as “What’s New! Late 1990s.” Along with a rapidly growing internet and digital cameras, Hartland depicts a rogue’s gallery of portable music players. This, of course, is a sly reference to what lies ahead. Much in the same spirit as her biography of Julia Child, Hartland does her best to balance a myriad of facts. She does a great job, for instance, in lightly touching on the drug use of a young Steve Jobs. It is filed away with an assortment of other exploration and soul-searching, like traveling to India. Idle time is balanced with driven work. Ultimately, this book depicts a life well lived, conscious of the moment.


“Steve Jobs: Insanely Great,” by Jessie Hartland is published by Schwartz Wade Books, an imprint of Penguin Random House. Visit our friends at Penguin Random House right here.


Filed under Biography, Comics, Computers, Steve Jobs

Joshua Boulet at Exterminator City, Push/Pull Gallery, Seattle

As any card-carrying local artist and cartoonist should do, I went down to check out the indie comic show Exterminator City, part of Push/Pull Studio & Gallery here in the Phinney-Greenwood neighborhood of Seattle. Exterminator City is put together by Push/Pull member, Seth Goodkind, who is a local cartoonist and published illustrator.


Plenty of stellar talent including Allen Gladfelter, Adam Lynn, Megan Noel, Noel Franklin, Scott Faulkner, and Eli Tripoli, to name a few. Coming off the heels of my awesome time at Hempfest last weekend, it was perfect timing to meet up with Joshua Boulet. He’s a fine example of how cannabis and comics mix quite well. In this video interview, Joshua is kind enough to share his sketchbook. BTW, I picked up his “Draw Occupy Wall Street” which I will review in a future post!

"I MET TOMMY CHONG!" by Joshua Boulet

“I MET TOMMY CHONG!” by Joshua Boulet

Here at Comics Grinder, we’ll keep exploring the interconnections between comics and cannabis as well as cannabis in general from time to time. You could say that both comics and cannabis remain somewhat misunderstood by the general public while also receiving a general thumbs up. That said, we can tackle both subjects thoughtfully and respectfully one post at a time.


Now, let’s focus on the venue for this comics event. Exterminator City was made possible by the Push/Pull Gallery. My heart goes out to them as both an artist and a curator. For many years, I curated art shows at Glo’s Diner with an emphasis on fringe art, specifically alternative comics. Well, Pull/Pull is ready to take things to a new level as they move toward a permanent home. With your help, Push/Pull will achieve its goal through its Kickstarter campaign, which closes on September 4, 2015, that you can visit right here.


Filed under Alternative Comics, Comic Arts Festivals, Comics, Comix, Exterminator City, Independent Comics, Indie, Joshua Boulet, mini-comics, Minicomics, Push/Pull Studio & Gallery, Seattle, Underground Comics

Review: ‘Locomotive / IDEOLO,’ published by Centrala

"Locomotive / IDEOLO," published by Centrala

“Locomotive / IDEOLO,” published by Centrala

“Locomotive / IDEOLO,” published by Centrala, is one beautiful and simple idea brought to life for all its worth: take a beloved famous Polish poem for children and then adapt it for adults. The poem is “The Locomotive,” by Julian Tuwim (September 13, 1894 – December 27, 1953) who is remembered for his satirical and subversive poetry. Listen to “The Locomotive” in Polish and, even if you don’t speak the language, it evokes the strains and struggles of the mighty steam-powered monster. What designer Małgorzata Gurowska and journalist Joanna Ruszczyk have done with this book is provide a unique format upon which to meditate on Tuwim’s poem.


I found this book to be a great form of therapy as I lingered upon each page. Gurowska and Ruszczyk provide an intoxicating mix of light and dark content. We have animals that appear to be undergoing an organized exodus while other animals have been neatly packed as surplus. And the same goes for humans. On the train cars, as we begin, it seems that we have everything we would ever need for anything: a celebration, a riot, the next all-out war. As we proceed from train car to train car, the stakes grow higher, the urgency more crushing. Countless suitcases are stored away never to be reunited with their owners. Troops are deployed. War is imminent or already unleashed.

And amid all the mounting tension, there is a cry for change. The political commentary is sly and well-placed challenging the reader to face difficult questions about national identity, racism, anti-Semitism, and attitudes towards ecology and animals. The design is impeccable and does a great job of evoking a highly regimented state of alert. The clean and sharp silhouettes of rabbits, soccer players, and suitcases will hit you with their significance. Contemplate each page and then spread out the entire book, just like an accordion, to fully appreciate it.

From Julian Tuwim’s THE LOCOMOTIVE:

A big locomotive has pulled into town,
Heavy, humungus, with sweat rolling down,
A plump jumbo olive.
Huffing and puffing and panting and smelly.
Fire belches forth from her fat cast iron belly

“Locomotive / IDEOLO” is a 188-page hardcover and is appropriate for ages 9 and up. Visit our friends at Centrala right here.

Leave a comment

Filed under Centrala, Comics, Design, Graphic Design, Illustration, Poetry